eBooks Cube
Chapter 113
The Past.

The count departed with a sad heart from the house in which
he had left Mercedes, probably never to behold her again.
Since the death of little Edward a great change had taken
place in Monte Cristo. Having reached the summit of his
vengeance by a long and tortuous path, he saw an abyss of
doubt yawning before him. More than this, the conversation
which had just taken place between Mercedes and himself had
awakened so many recollections in his heart that he felt it
necessary to combat with them. A man of the count's
temperament could not long indulge in that melancholy which
can exist in common minds, but which destroys superior ones.
He thought he must have made an error in his calculations if
he now found cause to blame himself.

"I cannot have deceived myself," he said; "I must look upon
the past in a false light. What!" he continued, "can I have
been following a false path? -- can the end which I proposed
be a mistaken end? -- can one hour have sufficed to prove to
an architect that the work upon which he founded all his
hopes was an impossible, if not a sacrilegious, undertaking?
I cannot reconcile myself to this idea -- it would madden
me. The reason why I am now dissatisfied is that I have not
a clear appreciation of the past. The past, like the country
through which we walk, becomes indistinct as we advance. My
position is like that of a person wounded in a dream; he
feels the wound, though he cannot recollect when he received
it. Come, then, thou regenerate man, thou extravagant
prodigal, thou awakened sleeper, thou all-powerful
visionary, thou invincible millionaire, -- once again review
thy past life of starvation and wretchedness, revisit the
scenes where fate and misfortune conducted, and where
despair received thee. Too many diamonds, too much gold and
splendor, are now reflected by the mirror in which Monte
Cristo seeks to behold Dantes. Hide thy diamonds, bury thy
gold, shroud thy splendor, exchange riches for poverty,
liberty for a prison, a living body for a corpse!" As he
thus reasoned, Monte Cristo walked down the Rue de la
Caisserie. It was the same through which, twenty-four years
ago, he had been conducted by a silent and nocturnal guard;
the houses, to-day so smiling and animated, were on that
night dark, mute, and closed. "And yet they were the same,"
murmured Monte Cristo, "only now it is broad daylight
instead of night; it is the sun which brightens the place,
and makes it appear so cheerful."

He proceeded towards the quay by the Rue Saint-Laurent, and
advanced to the Consigne; it was the point where he had
embarked. A pleasure-boat with striped awning was going by.
Monte Cristo called the owner, who immediately rowed up to
him with the eagerness of a boatman hoping for a good fare.
The weather was magnificent, and the excursion a treat.

The sun, red and flaming, was sinking into the embrace of
the welcoming ocean. The sea, smooth as crystal, was now and
then disturbed by the leaping of fish, which were pursued by
some unseen enemy and sought for safety in another element;
while on the extreme verge of the horizon might be seen the
fishermen's boats, white and graceful as the sea-gull, or
the merchant vessels bound for Corsica or Spain.

But notwithstanding the serene sky, the gracefully formed
boats, and the golden light in which the whole scene was
bathed, the Count of Monte Cristo, wrapped in his cloak,
could think only of this terrible voyage, the details of
which were one by one recalled to his memory. The solitary
light burning at the Catalans; that first sight of the
Chateau d'If, which told him whither they were leading him;
the struggle with the gendarmes when he wished to throw
himself overboard; his despair when he found himself
vanquished, and the sensation when the muzzle of the carbine
touched his forehead -- all these were brought before him in
vivid and frightful reality. Like the streams which the heat
of the summer has dried up, and which after the autumnal
storms gradually begin oozing drop by drop, so did the count
feel his heart gradually fill with the bitterness which
formerly nearly overwhelmed Edmond Dantes. Clear sky,
swift-flitting boats, and brilliant sunshine disappeared;
the heavens were hung with black, and the gigantic structure
of the Chateau d'If seemed like the phantom of a mortal
enemy. As they reached the shore, the count instinctively
shrunk to the extreme end of the boat, and the owner was
obliged to call out, in his sweetest tone of voice, "Sir, we
are at the landing."

Monte Cristo remembered that on that very spot, on the same
rock, he had been violently dragged by the guards, who
forced him to ascend the slope at the points of their
bayonets. The journey had seemed very long to Dantes, but
Monte Cristo found it equally short. Each stroke of the oar
seemed to awaken a new throng of ideas, which sprang up with
the flying spray of the sea.

There had been no prisoners confined in the Chateau d'If
since the revolution of July; it was only inhabited by a
guard, kept there for the prevention of smuggling. A
concierge waited at the door to exhibit to visitors this
monument of curiosity, once a scene of terror. The count
inquired whether any of the ancient jailers were still
there; but they had all been pensioned, or had passed on to
some other employment. The concierge who attended him had
only been there since 1830. He visited his own dungeon. He
again beheld the dull light vainly endeavoring to penetrate
the narrow opening. His eyes rested upon the spot where had
stood his bed, since then removed, and behind the bed the
new stones indicated where the breach made by the Abbe Faria
had been. Monte Cristo felt his limbs tremble; he seated
himself upon a log of wood.

"Are there any stories connected with this prison besides
the one relating to the poisoning of Mirabeau?" asked the
count; "are there any traditions respecting these dismal
abodes, -- in which it is difficult to believe men can ever
have imprisoned their fellow-creatures?"

"Yes, sir; indeed, the jailer Antoine told me one connected
with this very dungeon."

Monte Cristo shuddered; Antoine had been his jailer. He had
almost forgotten his name and face, but at the mention of
the name he recalled his person as he used to see it, the
face encircled by a beard, wearing the brown jacket, the
bunch of keys, the jingling of which he still seemed to
hear. The count turned around, and fancied he saw him in the
corridor, rendered still darker by the torch carried by the
concierge. "Would you like to hear the story, sir?"

"Yes; relate it," said Monte Cristo, pressing his hand to
his heart to still its violent beatings; he felt afraid of
hearing his own history.

"This dungeon," said the concierge, "was, it appears, some
time ago occupied by a very dangerous prisoner, the more so
since he was full of industry. Another person was confined
in the Chateau at the same time, but he was not wicked, he
was only a poor mad priest."

"Ah, indeed? -- mad!" repeated Monte Cristo; "and what was
his mania?"

"He offered millions to any one who would set him at

Monte Cristo raised his eyes, but he could not see the
heavens; there was a stone veil between him and the
firmament. He thought that there had been no less thick a
veil before the eyes of those to whom Faria offered the
treasures. "Could the prisoners see each other?" he asked.

"Oh, no, sir, it was expressly forbidden; but they eluded
the vigilance of the guards, and made a passage from one
dungeon to the other."

"And which of them made this passage?"

"Oh, it must have been the young man, certainly, for he was
strong and industrious, while the abbe was aged and weak;
besides, his mind was too vacillating to allow him to carry
out an idea."

"Blind fools!" murmured the count.

"However, be that as it may, the young man made a tunnel,
how or by what means no one knows; but he made it, and there
is the evidence yet remaining of his work. Do you see it?"
and the man held the torch to the wall.

"Ah, yes; I see," said the count, in a voice hoarse from

"The result was that the two men communicated with one
another; how long they did so, nobody knows. One day the old
man fell ill and died. Now guess what the young one did?"

"Tell me."

"He carried off the corpse, which he placed in his own bed
with its face to the wall; then he entered the empty
dungeon, closed the entrance, and slipped into the sack
which had contained the dead body. Did you ever hear of such
an idea?" Monte Cristo closed his eyes, and seemed again to
experience all the sensations he had felt when the coarse
canvas, yet moist with the cold dews of death, had touched
his face. The jailer continued: "Now this was his project.
He fancied that they buried the dead at the Chateau d'If,
and imagining they would not expend much labor on the grave
of a prisoner, he calculated on raising the earth with his
shoulders, but unfortunately their arrangements at the
Chateau frustrated his projects. They never buried the dead;
they merely attached a heavy cannon-ball to the feet, and
then threw them into the sea. This is what was done. The
young man was thrown from the top of the rock; the corpse
was found on the bed next day, and the whole truth was
guessed, for the men who performed the office then mentioned
what they had not dared to speak of before, that at the
moment the corpse was thrown into the deep, they heard a
shriek, which was almost immediately stifled by the water in
which it disappeared." The count breathed with difficulty;
the cold drops ran down his forehead, and his heart was full
of anguish.

"No," he muttered, "the doubt I felt was but the
commencement of forgetfulness; but here the wound reopens,
and the heart again thirsts for vengeance. And the
prisoner," he continued aloud, "was he ever heard of

"Oh, no; of course not. You can understand that one of two
things must have happened; he must either have fallen flat,
in which case the blow, from a height of ninety feet, must
have killed him instantly, or he must have fallen upright,
and then the weight would have dragged him to the bottom,
where he remained -- poor fellow!"

"Then you pity him?" said the count.

"Ma foi, yes; though he was in his own element."

"What do you mean?"

"The report was that he had been a naval officer, who had
been confined for plotting with the Bonapartists."

"Great is truth," muttered the count, "fire cannot burn, nor
water drown it! Thus the poor sailor lives in the
recollection of those who narrate his history; his terrible
story is recited in the chimney-corner, and a shudder is
felt at the description of his transit through the air to be
swallowed by the deep." Then, the count added aloud, "Was
his name ever known?"

"Oh, yes; but only as No. 34."

"Oh, Villefort, Villefort," murmured the count, "this scene
must often have haunted thy sleepless hours!"

"Do you wish to see anything more, sir?" said the concierge.

"Yes, especially if you will show me the poor abbe's room."

"Ah -- No. 27."

"Yes; No. 27." repeated the count, who seemed to hear the
voice of the abbe answering him in those very words through
the wall when asked his name.

"Come, sir."

"Wait," said Monte Cristo, "I wish to take one final glance
around this room."

"This is fortunate," said the guide; "I have forgotten the
other key."

"Go and fetch it."

"I will leave you the torch, sir."

"No, take it away; I can see in the dark."

"Why, you are like No. 34. They said he was so accustomed to
darkness that he could see a pin in the darkest corner of
his dungeon."

"He spent fourteen years to arrive at that," muttered the

The guide carried away the torch. The count had spoken
correctly. Scarcely had a few seconds elapsed, ere he saw
everything as distinctly as by daylight. Then he looked
around him, and really recognized his dungeon.

"Yes," he said, "there is the stone upon which I used to
sit; there is the impression made by my shoulders on the
wall; there is the mark of my blood made when one day I
dashed my head against the wall. Oh, those figures, how well
I remember them! I made them one day to calculate the age of
my father, that I might know whether I should find him still
living, and that of Mercedes, to know if I should find her
still free. After finishing that calculation, I had a
minute's hope. I did not reckon upon hunger and infidelity!"
and a bitter laugh escaped the count. He saw in fancy the
burial of his father, and the marriage of Mercedes. On the
other side of the dungeon he perceived an inscription, the
white letters of which were still visible on the green wall.
"`O God,'" he read, "`preserve my memory!' Oh, yes," he
cried, "that was my only prayer at last; I no longer begged
for liberty, but memory; I dreaded to become mad and
forgetful. O God, thou hast preserved my memory; I thank
thee, I thank thee!" At this moment the light of the torch
was reflected on the wall; the guide was coming; Monte
Cristo went to meet him.

"Follow me, sir;" and without ascending the stairs the guide
conducted him by a subterraneous passage to another
entrance. There, again, Monte Cristo was assailed by a
multitude of thoughts. The first thing that met his eye was
the meridian, drawn by the abbe on the wall, by which he
calculated the time; then he saw the remains of the bed on
which the poor prisoner had died. The sight of this, instead
of exciting the anguish experienced by the count in the
dungeon, filled his heart with a soft and grateful
sentiment, and tears fell from his eyes.

"This is where the mad abbe was kept, sir, and that is where
the young man entered; "and the guide pointed to the
opening, which had remained unclosed. "From the appearance
of the stone," he continued, "a learned gentleman discovered
that the prisoners might have communicated together for ten
years. Poor things! Those must have been ten weary years."

Dantes took some louis from his pocket, and gave them to the
man who had twice unconsciously pitied him. The guide took
them, thinking them merely a few pieces of little value; but
the light of the torch revealed their true worth. "Sir," he
said, "you have made a mistake; you have given me gold."

"I know it." The concierge looked upon the count with
surprise. "Sir," he cried, scarcely able to believe his good
fortune -- "sir, I cannot understand your generosity!"

"Oh, it is very simple, my good fellow; I have been a
sailor, and your story touched me more than it would

"Then, sir, since you are so liberal, I ought to offer you

"What have you to offer to me, my friend? Shells?
Straw-work? Thank you!"

"No, sir, neither of those; something connected with this

"Really? What is it?"

"Listen," said the guide; "I said to myself, `Something is
always left in a cell inhabited by one prisoner for fifteen
years,' so I began to sound the wall."

"Ah," cried Monte Cristo, remembering the abbe's two

"After some search, I found that the floor gave a hollow
sound near the head of the bed, and at the hearth."

"Yes," said the count, "yes."

"I raised the stones, and found" --

"A rope-ladder and some tools?"

"How do you know that?" asked the guide in astonishment.

"I do not know -- I only guess it, because that sort of
thing is generally found in prisoners' cells."

"Yes, sir, a rope-ladder and tools."

"And have you them yet?"

"No, sir; I sold them to visitors, who considered them great
curiosities; but I have still something left."

"What is it?" asked the count, impatiently.

"A sort of book, written upon strips of cloth."

"Go and fetch it, my good fellow; and if it be what I hope,
you will do well."

"I will run for it, sir;" and the guide went out. Then the
count knelt down by the side of the bed, which death had
converted into an altar. "Oh, second father," he exclaimed,
"thou who hast given me liberty, knowledge, riches; thou
who, like beings of a superior order to ourselves, couldst
understand the science of good and evil; if in the depths of
the tomb there still remain something within us which can
respond to the voice of those who are left on earth; if
after death the soul ever revisit the places where we have
lived and suffered, -- then, noble heart, sublime soul, then
I conjure thee by the paternal love thou didst bear me, by
the filial obedience I vowed to thee, grant me some sign,
some revelation! Remove from me the remains of doubt, which,
if it change not to conviction, must become remorse!" The
count bowed his head, and clasped his hands together.

"Here, sir," said a voice behind him.

Monte Cristo shuddered, and arose. The concierge held out
the strips of cloth upon which the Abbe Faria had spread the
riches of his mind. The manuscript was the great work by the
Abbe Faria upon the kingdoms of Italy. The count seized it
hastily, his eyes immediately fell upon the epigraph, and he
read, "`Thou shalt tear out the dragons' teeth, and shall
trample the lions under foot, saith the Lord.'"

"Ah," he exclaimed, "here is my answer. Thanks, father,
thanks." And feeling in his pocket, he took thence a small
pocket-book, which contained ten bank-notes, each of 1,000

"Here," he said, "take this pocket-book."

"Do you give it to me?"

"Yes; but only on condition that you will not open it till I
am gone;" and placing in his breast the treasure he had just
found, which was more valuable to him than the richest
jewel, he rushed out of the corridor, and reaching his boat,
cried, "To Marseilles!" Then, as he departed, he fixed his
eyes upon the gloomy prison. "Woe," he cried, "to those who
confined me in that wretched prison; and woe to those who
forgot that I was there!" As he repassed the Catalans, the
count turned around and burying his head in his cloak
murmured the name of a woman. The victory was complete;
twice he had overcome his doubts. The name he pronounced, in
a voice of tenderness, amounting almost to love, was that of

On landing, the count turned towards the cemetery, where he
felt sure of finding Morrel. He, too, ten years ago, had
piously sought out a tomb, and sought it vainly. He, who
returned to France with millions, had been unable to find
the grave of his father, who had perished from hunger.
Morrel had indeed placed a cross over the spot, but it had
fallen down and the grave-digger had burnt it, as he did all
the old wood in the churchyard. The worthy merchant had been
more fortunate. Dying in the arms of his children, he had
been by them laid by the side of his wife, who had preceded
him in eternity by two years. Two large slabs of marble, on
which were inscribed their names, were placed on either side
of a little enclosure, railed in, and shaded by four
cypress-trees. Morrel was leaning against one of these,
mechanically fixing his eyes on the graves. His grief was so
profound that he was nearly unconscious. "Maximilian," said
the count, "you should not look on the graves, but there;"
and he pointed upwards.

"The dead are everywhere," said Morrel; "did you not
yourself tell me so as we left Paris?"

"Maximilian," said the count, "you asked me during the
journey to allow you to remain some days at Marseilles. Do
you still wish to do so?"

"I have no wishes, count; only I fancy I could pass the time
less painfully here than anywhere else."

"So much the better, for I must leave you; but I carry your
word with me, do I not?"

"Ah, count, I shall forget it."

"No, you will not forget it, because you are a man of honor,
Morrel, because you have taken an oath, and are about to do
so again."

"Oh, count, have pity upon me. I am so unhappy."

"I have known a man much more unfortunate than you, Morrel."


"Alas," said Monte Cristo, "it is the infirmity of our
nature always to believe ourselves much more unhappy than
those who groan by our sides!"

"What can be more wretched than the man who has lost all he
loved and desired in the world?"

"Listen, Morrel, and pay attention to what I am about to
tell you. I knew a man who like you had fixed all his hopes
of happiness upon a woman. He was young, he had an old
father whom he loved, a betrothed bride whom he adored. He
was about to marry her, when one of the caprices of fate, --
which would almost make us doubt the goodness of providence,
if that providence did not afterwards reveal itself by
proving that all is but a means of conducting to an end, --
one of those caprices deprived him of his mistress, of the
future of which he had dreamed (for in his blindness he
forgot he could only read the present), and cast him into a

"Ah," said Morrel, "one quits a dungeon in a week, a month,
or a year."

"He remained there fourteen years, Morrel," said the count,
placing his hand on the young man's shoulder. Maximilian

"Fourteen years!" he muttered -- "Fourteen years!" repeated
the count. "During that time he had many moments of despair.
He also, Morrel, like you, considered himself the unhappiest
of men."

"Well?" asked Morrel.

"Well, at the height of his despair God assisted him through
human means. At first, perhaps, he did not recognize the
infinite mercy of the Lord, but at last he took patience and
waited. One day he miraculously left the prison,
transformed, rich, powerful. His first cry was for his
father; but that father was dead."

"My father, too, is dead," said Morrel.

"Yes; but your father died in your arms, happy, respected,
rich, and full of years; his father died poor, despairing,
almost doubtful of providence; and when his son sought his
grave ten years afterwards, his tomb had disappeared, and no
one could say, `There sleeps the father you so well loved.'"

"Oh!" exclaimed Morrel.

"He was, then, a more unhappy son than you, Morrel, for he
could not even find his father's grave."

"But then he had the woman he loved still remaining?"

"You are deceived, Morrel, that woman" --

"She was dead?"

"Worse than that, she was faithless, and had married one of
the persecutors of her betrothed. You see, then, Morrel,
that he was a more unhappy lover than you."

"And has he found consolation?"

"He has at least found peace."

"And does he ever expect to be happy?"

"He hopes so, Maximilian." The young man's head fell on his

"You have my promise," he said, after a minute's pause,
extending his hand to Monte Cristo. "Only remember" --

"On the 5th of October, Morrel, I shall expect you at the
Island of Monte Cristo. On the 4th a yacht will wait for you
in the port of Bastia, it will be called the Eurus. You will
give your name to the captain, who will bring you to me. It
is understood -- is it not?"

"But, count, do you remember that the 5th of October" --

"Child," replied the count, "not to know the value of a
man's word! I have told you twenty times that if you wish to
die on that day, I will assist you. Morrel, farewell!"

"Do you leave me?"

"Yes; I have business in Italy. I leave you alone with your
misfortunes, and with hope, Maximilian."

"When do you leave?"

"Immediately; the steamer waits, and in an hour I shall be
far from you. Will you accompany me to the harbor,

"I am entirely yours, count." Morrel accompanied the count
to the harbor. The white steam was ascending like a plume of
feathers from the black chimney. The steamer soon
disappeared, and in an hour afterwards, as the count had
said, was scarcely distinguishable in the horizon amidst the
fogs of the night.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site